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May-07-2010 18:05printcomments

Our Back Yard Mine Field

Please help the Veterans of today, this article contains information on how you can.

American soldier in Kuwait, next stop Baghdad. photo by Tim King
American soldier in Kuwait, next stop Baghdad. photo by Tim King

(EUGENE, Ore.) - After any conflict, materials remain which were used to protect our side, and incapacitate their side. These devices need to defused, and put away carefully.

Sometimes opposing forces are just in a hurry to get home, and they leave these devices for the local community to take care of. Americans tend to fight the enemy on their ground, so we don’t worry much about unexploded ordinance. This includes ammunition, mortars, grenades, claymore mines, and anti-personnel mines.

Mine fields are often not deactivated and they can kill, dismember, or incapacitate civilians long after a conflict. People who live in areas of past conflict never know how or when these devices are going to go off. They may explode from just rusting out, or get triggered by a dog, cow, or a wandering child.

There is another type of mine, you won’t find in Explosive Ordinance Disposal (like The Hurt Locker) manuals. They are the only mines we have to wory about here in the United States. They have the designation PTSD/MST. These are our Fathers, Mothers, and other relatives who come home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

Just like the mines we leave back in the war zone, our veterans may be suppressing emotions which could lead them to do anything from driving through a stop sign (to avoid sniper attack), to actions like those taken by Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh was a United States Army veteran who was convicted of detonating a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of six. It was the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, and is referred to as the Oklahoma City bombing. He told a reporter that he had suffered a PTSD breakdown.

As a Veteran myself, I go to the VA for my yearly checkup, and I hear the complaints of the other G.I.s in the waiting room. Suicide posters line the walls. I was asked about 5 questions about having suicidal thoughts. I have heard we have lost more Vietnam service members to suicide, than members who died in the conflict. It was reported that there are over 7,000 homeless Vets living in Oregon. If they had access to an effective treatment program, I believe these people would have integrated back into society.

The U.S. Army has discovered an effective treatment program. In an article by By Donna Miles of the American Forces Press Service, titled - Center Creates ‘Little Miracles’ in Treating Combat Stress, she related that at Fort Bliss, Texas, May 9, 2008 – A revolutionary treatment program here is demonstrating “little miracles” as it gives new hope to soldiers afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder who want to stay in the Army, its director reports.

The new program is the brainchild of clinical psychologist John E. Fortunato, who uses a holistic approach to treating PTSD at the new Fort Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center. Fortunato conceded that his proposal “wasn’t an easy sell” initially, particularly because it wove yoga, massage therapy and other nontraditional approaches into its treatment program. But driven by the frustration of seeing soldiers with PTSD forced to leave the Army against their wishes, Fortunato pressed forward and won approval for his prototype program.

With $2.2 million in initial funding and a 1940s barracks building to rehab, he set out to launch the Restoration and Resilience Center in June 2006. The center opened last summer. Fortunato was convinced traditional PTSD treatments weren’t long enough, intense enough or comprehensive enough. “So we set out to create a program to address all aspects of PTSD and treat the whole soldier,” he said.

The participants, all volunteers, take about one-half the doses of medications they’d typically get through community mental-health programs. “That’s because we’re doing a bunch of other things,” Fortunato said.

Many PTSD-afflicted soldiers experience “hyper-arousal,” which the center staff treats with techniques like medical massage and “Reiki,” a Japanese stress-reduction technique. Acupuncture has proven to be “extremely effective” in treating the anxiety, panic, and tension-induced physical pain many experience, Fortunato said.

Many afflicted soldiers have trouble with concentration and memory, Fortunato said. For them, the program’s mix of physical activity and calming techniques appears to help. They do yoga; tai chi, a Chinese martial art; “Quigong,” a centuries-old Chinese self-healing method; and biofeedback, which uses the mind to heal the body. “We have a meditation room that looks like it came out of a Zen monastery,” Fortunato said.

The article concluded with - Fortunato said he’s all for duplicating his effort, but emphasized that his program’s small size is a key to its success. The soldiers and staff all know each other, have nicknames for each other, and feel a personal commitment to each other. “We all love these guys,” he said.

Because similar successful programs have sprouted at over 15 other Army installations, this year, the Army is releasing a $3.5 Million grant to support the study of this therapy, which allows them to reduce PTSD in soldiers who want to stay in the military.

My concern for the increasing number of veterans, who are not offered a similar program by the VA or VetCenters if they choose to leave the service. Why can’t we initiate a program similar to the one in Fort Bliss, Texas. As an energy therapy practitioner (with lots of contacts in alternative medicine), I thought I might have the answer… IF I could get someone to listen! I talked to over 20 Veteran support organizations and representatives for Senator Wyden, and Congressman DeFazio. All but one of them either ignored my attempts to help fellow veterans, or pointed to one of the other support agencies as the best place to start.

I believe I have a cost effective solution to PTSD. Energy therapy alone seems to work for most. There are Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and acupressure techniques which took two minutes to alleviate 30 years of stress related trauma for a Vietnam era Veteran. Some Veterans Administration offices would rather medicate PTSD resulting in death of the Veteran.

In a recent article by By Martha Rosenberg “Are Veterans Being Given Deadly Cocktails to Treat PTSD?”

Sgt. Eric Layne's death was not pretty.

A few months after starting a drug regimen combining the antidepressant Paxil, the mood stabilizer Klonopin and a controversial anti-psychotic drug manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, Seroquel, the Iraq war veteran was "suffering from incontinence, severe depression [and] continuous headaches," according to his widow, Janette Layne.

Soon he had tremors. " … [H]is breathing was labored [and] he had developed sleep apnea," Layne said.

Janette Layne, who served in the National Guard during Operation Iraqi Freedom along with her husband, told the story of his decline last year, at official FDA hearings on new approvals for Seroquel. On the last day of his life, she testified, Eric stayed in the bathroom nearly all night battling acute urinary retention (an inability to urinate). He died while his family slept.

Sgt. Layne had just returned from a seven-week inpatient program at the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati where he was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A video shot during that time, played by his wife at the FDA hearings, shows a dangerously sedated figure barely able to talk.

Sgt. Layne was not the first veteran to die after being prescribed medical cocktails including Seroquel for PTSD.

This veteran survived Iraq, and died in his bathroom. My program works on everyone who has tried it. After only one hour of training, an individual can assist others. All I am looking for is a venue to make Veterans aware of my program. I will then train these Veterans to work on other Veterans in an “On the Job Training” environment.

I am working through The Shambala Center of Eugene. They are recognized as a Non-Profit organization with the space available to assist Veterans, and they are open to accept donations to help them. If this program was funded, I could develop a case log, and a training program. Then I could go to our Oregon VA, Senators, and Congressmen, to see if we can get State or Federal funding. There are several Oregon Schools closing down soon, and most schools are empty during the summer break. These could be used to house Veterans for their therapy, training, and transition. I am sure a business owner would rater hire a graduate of this program, than an individual who may be suppressing his/her issue, or existing through medication along.

Please help the Veterans of today, by donating to Operation PTSD at The Shambala Center, 1939 River Rd., Eugene, OR 97404. Their number is: 541-868-1178

Shambala Representative: Guy Avenell USAF MSgt (Ret) – 541-915-8581-

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